Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta, NHL Discuss Potential Viability Of Houston Franchise
The NHL had "preliminary discussions about the potential viability of an NHL team in Houston," according to Katie Strang of THE ATHLETIC. Sources said that there was a meeting "within the past few weeks" between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta at the league's offices in N.Y. However, Bettman "refuted the notion that the NHL was actively looking for relocation options." Bettman: "We're not relocating any clubs right now." Asked if Houston would be considered if that changes, Bettman said, "If Houston were to express an interest in having an NHL franchise, under the right circumstances, it's something we might want to consider." Strang noted Fertitta "previously expressed interest in bringing the NHL to Houston." Toyota Center, built in '03, is "outfitted to hold 17,800 for hockey" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/15). NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that the meeting was "not dissimilar to meetings the league engages in regularly, and that it 'does not change or alter anything related to expansion or relocation.'" Daly also "emphasized that the NHL has no plans to expand" (USA TODAY, 11/17). Fertitta on Thursday wrote via Twitter, "As I've mentioned before, I'm very interested in the possibility of bringing the NHL to Houston, but it will have to be a deal that works for my organization, the City, fans of the NHL throughout the region, and the NHL Board of Governors. We are in the very early stage of evaluating what opportunities may exist but look forward to a thorough process" (TWITTER.com, 11/16).
PROS & CONS: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Jared Clinton wrote when it comes to the viability of a team in Houston, it would "seem that the city checks many of the major boxes that would make the NHL intrigued by the possibility." A facility "is in place, with Toyota Center acting as a more-than-suitable home." Houston, with "nearly 2.3 million people, is the fourth-most populated city" in the U.S., and the television market is the "eighth-largest in the country." However, one "hangup for Fertitta and the NHL ... may be what portion of the population would turn up or tune in to watch an NHL team based in Houston, especially with the sports fan's dollar stretched" with the Rockets, Astros, Texans, Dynamo, NWSL Houston Dash and several minor league teams (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 11/16).